Evaluating a Prospective Ghostwriter or Collaborator

What should you look for in a ghostwriter or collaborator?

First and most important, you want someone with good writing skills. Yes, there are plenty of people out there who call themselves ghostwriters who can’t write, so ask to see writing samples from the writers who are candidates for your project. Recognize that many ghostwriters are bound by confidentiality clauses and may not be able to show you everything they’ve written, but they should be able to show you enough for you to determine how well they write.

As you review the samples, consider the writer’s style. Ideally, you want a ghostwriter who can write in your voice – meaning that what they write sounds like you. It’s easier to achieve this if your respective natural styles are similar.

keyboardIn addition to style, consider the writer’s knowledge of the subject. Good ghostwriters can quickly learn about any subject from the named author and other research sources, but it’s helpful – though not essential – if they start with some familiarity and interest in the topic.

You should also consider the writer’s overall experience. Certainly everybody is a beginner at some point, but as writers gain experience, they also gain market knowledge and connections that may be of benefit to you. Of course, experience usually comes with a price – you’ll likely pay higher rates to a more experienced writer.

Finally, consider your compatibility with the writer. Ghostwriters and their clients usually spend a lot of time together and get to know each other very well. Depending on the subject matter of your book, you may need to reveal a lot of personal information to get it written, so choose a ghostwriter that you’ll be comfortable doing this with.

Once you’ve selected a writer and agreed on the scope of the project and the fee, put it all down in a detailed contract. This clarifies your agreement and prevents any potential misunderstandings. The contract should:

  • Stipulate the relationship (typically, the ghostwriter is an independent contractor, not an employee);
  • Provide details on the payment amounts and schedule;
  • Include a description of the work plan and schedule, as well as how revisions will be handled;
  • Outline who is responsible for what when it comes to research;
  • Clearly define the ownership of research materials, other intellectual property and the finished work;
  • Include an appropriate confidentiality agreement; and
  • Address standard contractual issues such as termination, legal written notice, severability, arbitration, and venue.
In Part 4 of this series, we’ll discuss how to find a ghostwriter.
Jacquelyn Lynn
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